Naples boasts more than 40 miles (64km) of fabulous beaches, and has come a long way in the last hundred years or so. When it was founded in 1885, the only way to reach the settlement was by boat; Naples Pier is a relic from those days. Today, Naples is growing fast and seems to be rivaling fashionable and up-market Palm Beach across the state on the Atlantic coast. There are expensive shops and boutiques, galleries and eateries along Fifth Avenue, and other shopping opportunities at Third Street, The Avenues in Old Naples, Tin City, The Village on Venetian Bay and the waterside shops at Pelican Bay. However, it is Naples beaches that attract the visitors, as well as the shelling and wildlife.
To the north lies the Delnor Wiggins Pass State Recreation Area and, in North Naples, the Clam Pass Sanctuary, both of which are rated among the top twenty US beaches. To the south is Rookery Bay, noted for its prolific wildlife and mangrove swamps.
The areas best beaches include Delnor Wiggins Pass State Recreation Area, Barefoot Beach, Cochatchee River Park, Clam Pass Park, Lowdermill Park and Tigertail Beach. Naples offers a wide range of outdoor activities, from golf to fishing, sailing and air-boat rides. In addition, swamp-buggy races are usually held during the last week of October off Country Road 951. This sport has been popular in the Naples area for almost fifty years.
The Philharmonic Center for the Arts (Pelican Bay Boulevard) has a year-round programme. Tel: 941/ 597-1900
Collier County Museum (corner of Highway 41E and Airport Road) traces the history of the area, from the Calusi Indians to the present day. The grounds contain the reconstruction of a Seminole Indian Village.
Open: Monday to Friday 9am - 5pm.
The Conservancy and Naples Nature Center (1450 Merrihue Drive) features wildlife exhibits, an animal clinic, a natural science museum, a marine aquarium, a touch tank, an outdoor aviary and nature trails.
Open: Monday to Saturday 9.30am4.30pm and Sunday 15pm from January to March, weekdays and Saturday only from April to September, and weekdays only during the rest of the year.
Teddy Bear Museum of Naples (2511 Pine Ridge Road off Exit 16 of Interstate 75) has more than 1,500 teddy bears on display and puts on changing exhibitions.
Open: Wednesday to Saturday 10am5pm and Sunday 1pm5pm.
Jungle Larry's Zoological Park (at the Caribbean Gardens on Goodlette Road, off Highway 41) has self-guided walking trails through its 52 acre (84 hectare) grounds, where wild animals and birds live in a jungle setting. There are also boat rides, a petting zoo and animal shows.
Open: Daily 9.30 am - 5.30 pm.
The Naples Depot Civic and Cultural Centre (Fifth Avenue S) is housed in the renovated 1927 railway station, and displays railway memorabilia and art exhibits.
Open: Monday to Friday 10am - 4pm.
The Briggs Nature Center is part of the 9,200 acre (3,680 hectare) Rookery Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve. There are trails through the marshes, mangroves and coastal hammocks, an observation deck and ranger-led pontoon boat tours between December and May that deal with bird-watching, beachcombing and marine ecology. Canoe trips are also available. Apart from the rich bird life, the wealth of wild flowers attracts large numbers of butterflies; there is a special butterfly garden near the car park. Bottlenose dolphins and manatees can be spotted off shore. The centre is reached by taking Highway 951 towards Marco Island, and then turning right onto Shell Island Road for 1 mile (1.6km) to the entrance.